ROOKS AT DUSK the story behind the story


ROOKS AT DUSK is the title of the novel I am working on. It’s been burning in my bones for years and I’ve set aside the next couple of months to try to finish it. To give me a real incentive to get it done and to give you an opportunity to get a flavour of the book, you can read the first chapter here on my web-site. So just to whet your appetite, let me tell you what’s prompted me to venture into the world of fiction – a very different kind of writing to anything I’ve done before.

The television dramatist Dennis Potter who died in 1994 has long been one of my heroes. What endeared him to me was not only his incredible skill with words, but even more his longing to believe despite his honest doubt which made it very difficult for him to commit himself. In December 1976 he was, to the surprise of many, invited to give a talk on Radio 3 in the UK on the meaning of Christmas. He spoke eloquently about his struggle for faith. I didn’t hear the broadcast but I read his words many years later and I have never been able to forget them:

“A fretful scepticism grates at my mind with the noisy insistence of rooks at dusk, and although I often settle upon the thought of ‘God’ in the silence of my own head, and although I yearn for ‘God’ in the speechless ligaments of my being, I find the word ‘God’, and the words ‘Jesus Christ’, in my mouth a genuine embarrassment.
My tongue, already dipped and coated with the acid of hypocrisy,
feels no more than a sliver away from cant and sanctimoniousness.”

That opening sentence has haunted me over the years. I have lived almost my entire adult life as a follower of Jesus, as a church leader, and as a preacher. It has been my task and my incredible privilege to speak and write with conviction about the great truths of the Christian gospel to which I am passionately committed. But I also know about the ‘rooks at dusk‘ and the inescapable scepticism they bring. Ever since childhood I’ve had a very powerful ‘What if…’ lurking in my mind. I have had to live with it and to acknowledge it.

What if it turned out not to be real?
What if I couldn’t believe any longer?
What if I messed up and jettisoned my ministry and my marriage?
What if…what if?
And where would I go?
What would I do?
How would I find grace?
Or would grace find me?

I’m willing to acknowledge that I may be a little odd – no comments, please! But I suspect that I’m not alone in living with a combination of faith and doubt. I’m also very much aware that there are many people – some sat in the pews and some who are rarely if ever in church – who find it hard to believe or who feel that their sins and mistakes have set them adrift from a life of faith. And I’m often deeply embarrassed by our glib statements, rigid dogmas and comfortable cliches which fail to do justice to the reality of life.

That’s the kind of stuff I try to explore in ROOKS AT DUSK. It’s the story of Ray (a church leader and itinerant speaker) and his son Ollie (a stand-up comic), of their relationship with each other, with the women in their lives, and with the God from whom they might try to run but from whom they can never escape. It’s a story of faith and failure, devotion and doubt, human worth and weakness, and divine discipline and grace. I hope you’ll enjoy the first chapter…

CLICK ON About Chick/Chick’s books to find the prologue and chapter one

2 Responses

  1. Margaret Robb says:

    I look forward to reading your book Chick. We live in the country 14 miles west of Aberdeen. We live in a little village Crathes, about a mile from the castle. I look forward to spring for many reasons, one being the sound of rooks in the morning. I lie in bed and love the comforting sound of the rooks, who are very attentive parents. I look forward to reading your finished book Margaret

  2. AnvildingChick says:

    Thanks, Margaret. Your home sounds idyllic. We’re in a city, of course, but we do look out on a park and a woodland with the delightful name of Nan Nook Woods! I often see the rooks wheeling and coming to roost when I’m running in the park l;ate in the afternoon or early evening.

    I’ll keep you up-to-date with progress. I hope to complete some time in March. Then it’ll be sorting out printing and publications.

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